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The Day the Music Game Genre Died

For those like me who love music as much as they love marketing, last week marked the sad passing of what was once a groundbreaking new video game: Guitar Hero. On February 9th, Activision announced it will be shutting down its music game division, home to the Guitar Hero series of video games.  Activision also announced the lay off of about 7% of the company's workforce and discontinuation of game development slated for 2011. While there is speculation about the causes of the layoff and discontinuing of the music game offerings, many point to one culprit: oversaturation. In the years following Guitar Hero's initial release the music game genre exploded into it the current offerings of Guitar Hero I, II & III, Rock Band, Band Hero, DJ Hero and Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock. In just five years, wallets drained and living rooms across the nation began to look more like a Guitar Center then a room in the family home. Activision CEO Eric Hirshberg highlights the company's inability to make the games profitable, largely due to current economies and consumer demand. Despite the reasons for Guitar Hero's end, it will have a great impact on those who used the music games as a marketing channel, particularly independent record labels. From across the continent I can hear my friends weeping. Not only for the loss of new games to incorporate into the monthly beer-fueled, Guitar Hero rock-a-thons, but for the lost opportunities to market their new artists to millions of potential album and concert ticket purchasing fans. It is this tight group of musicians and independent record labels who will be the most deeply impacted by the loss of the marketing opportunities presented by music genre games. When it first appeared in 2005, Guitar Hero developers at Red Octane and Harmonix Music Systems offered low cost opportunities to independent record labels and bands to appear on video game soundtracks. Record labels jumped at the chance to market artists using a new channel with a large potential reach. Today, Guitar Hero has shipped over 25 million units, having put budding indie bands like Attack! Attack!, Band of Skulls, Amon Amarth and countless others into the hands of fans that might not necessarily hear them. In the wake of this loss, I'd like to hope the developers will find new homes, fans will retreat to their Rock Band guitars and drum sets, and just as they always have, independent record labels will search out the newest (often gratis) ways to market bands to the masses.

There's a Badge for That?

As the Boy Scouts of America celebrate their 100th anniversary this year, they serve as an interesting case study for brand's adapting, or trying to adapt, to meet the changing needs of their audience. Facing a continuous drop in membership (only 2.8 million members as of 2009), the Boy Scouts of America are making small strides in embracing their consumer target ' digitally connected boys ' with the introduction of a new Video Game badge. Before you start a campfire of concern, I should caveat that the achievement itself isn't technically a badge ' it is awarded as a 'belt loop'? or 'pin'? ' and it isn't for defeating Radec to conquer Killzone 2. To get the Video Games Belt Loop, Cub Scouts must explain why it is important to have a rating system for video games, create (and follow) a schedule that balances playing games with homework and chores, and learn to play any new video game that is approved by a parent, guardian, or teacher. To earn the Video Games Academics Pin (for boys up to fifth grade), Scouts must complete five of the following requirements: With your parents, create a plan to buy a video game that is right for your age group. Compare two game systems (for example, Microsoft Xbox, Sony PlayStation, Nintendo Wii, and so on). Explain some of the differences between the two. List good reasons to purchase or use a game system. Play a video game with family members in a family tournament. Teach an adult or a friend how to play a video game. List at least five tips that would help someone who was learning how to play your favorite video game. Play an appropriate video game with a friend for one hour. Play a video game that will help you practice your math, spelling, or another skill that helps you in your schoolwork. Choose a game you might like to purchase. Compare the price for this game at three different stores. Decide which store has the best deal. In your decision, be sure to consider things like the store return policy and manufacturer's warranty. With an adult's supervision, install a gaming system. So while core principles of the organization - think camping, tying knots or soap box derbys ' remain core to the Boy Scouts missions, the organization is trying to stay relevant with their audience. Relevancy is paramount to a brand's success. We're all aware that brands must adapt over time in order to stay relevant with their audience and to ultimately remain successful. Recently, we've seen Gatorade introduce their new 3-part G Series of products and Starbucks extend their brand into the instant, at-home marketplace. With 100 years of brand history at stake, is this latest effort by the Scouts enough to 'power-up'? their membership numbers and help make the Boy Scouts relevant again?

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